Be. Leadership 2018: Session 4 – Innovation, Regeneration and Nourished Souls

by Melissa Wells

Resilience, compassion, soul and broccolini were just some of the keywords discussed over the course of our three-day mid-year retreat in Christchurch. The city put on a stunningly clear day, and as we touched down and breathed in the fresh dry air, it felt like someone had started to clear my mind of all the rain, clouds and fog that had obscured my vision for the past month.

The topic of the retreat was innovation and regeneration. Within this, we collectively explored the role of leadership when such qualities are needed, and what styles of leadership work in these situations.

Margaret Jeffries opened the session with a compassionate discussion on community resilience and the use of time-banking in Lyttelton. She told us of tough situations where equally tough questions were asked like, ‘how is your soul’? After this weekend I can say with assurance that my soul is nourished. It feels fed. It is no longer starved and exhausted. And now it is hungry for more.

Margaret spoke of ‘visioning days’ – where her community discussed and contemplated their purpose and core – something that I’d only ever seen in dry documents on websites explaining companies’ intent and staff personal performance documents. But when you know what your core and purpose are, there is very little left to consider. It is an essentialist approach and is a way of life I am giving a go. It seems that most of the struggle is understanding what your own core and authentic self is (or that of your company), and what is left over is finding the courage in saying ‘no’ to projects that do not align with your purpose, or ‘hell yes’ to the ones that do. (Thank you to Margaret Jeffries, Greg McKeown and Derek Sivers for connecting these three ideas together. Until the retreat, these were floating meaninglessly, unconnected in my brain).

It was clear that Margaret spoke from her heart and it impacted me

positively. She was open about her experience with the Christchurch earthquakes and how the close community of Lyttelton was able to handle the disaster. People instinctively want to help in these sorts of situations, and time-banking was about accepting people as they were and taking their offers of assistance. I enjoyed Margaret’s honesty and realism. It was a refreshing start to the retreat.

Our second speakers were Lianne Dalziel (Mayor of Christchurch) and Aaron Keown (Councillor). Their perspectives were from central and local government. They spoke about working with local communities in times of crisis and explored of the idea of ‘co-creation’. The process of the rebuild was explained in that different projects were headed by different people and that is why there was not the same level of widespread accessibility across the projects implemented. They also spoke of an accessible city as being one that is fully accessible to as 8-year-old as to an 80-year-old. I thought this was a good realistic starting point.

Our third speaker Prudence Walker is a Be. Leadership alumni from 2013. She showed her own resilience, innovation and regeneration through telling her own life story, and despite our life stories being extremely different, I saw a part of myself in her. She was able to connect us neatly with Margaret Jeffries’ session when she spoke about having a vision, being present and relying on her intuition when things got tough. We also compared the difference between disability leadership and accessible leadership and the qualities of each. My big take away from Prudence is to find and work for a company or organisation that has my values. Such compatibility can allow us to work towards something together, rather than having a constant battle with our values.

Mojo Mathers was our fourth speaker and wow, what a session that was! I had a few mind-blown moments to be sure. Mojo also linked back to Margaret’s session with her own self-awareness, love, compassion, honesty and authentic self. She was refreshing to listen to and she also challenged us to think critically about the society we live in.

So I ask you, what kind of society do we live in? What kind of democracy do we live in?

Mojo was honest about the inaccessibility of central government, but she did say that most people were responsive and supportive of change when they work alongside others with access needs. She is currently in a state of self-innovation and regeneration in her own life. Mojo first stood for the Green Party in 2005 and was an MP for two terms – 2011-2017. She showed us her inner-strength of handling a life-changing occurrence by her current process of rebuilding and refocusing herself.

The discussions within the wider group and within our syndicates pushed our minds to new levels of understanding as we considered and questioned our own biases, prejudices, beliefs and values. We engaged, listened and were actively present with each other as we spoke with compassion, love, and resilience. We discussed tough ideas openly but also stayed true to our authentic selves.

We are on a journey. It is a long but worthy journey. There is more to come, but I feel like I can do anything with my Be. community. My soul has been nourished by the acceptance, strength and love. I feel in touch with my core again, and I have a stronger idea of my purpose. I can only imagine how we will all feel in six months’ time! Ngā mihi nui.

P.S. Don’t forget to eat your broccolini!